People Power: The power of casual connections – Nov 2019
By Sam Allman
You can’t do it by yourself! No matter how brilliant your mind or strategy, if you are playing a solo game, you will always lose out to a team. Talent is not good enough and education alone won’t save you. You need more than yourself; you need relationships you can count on. Legendary business leader and co-founder of the Harvey Mackay Academy, Harvey Mackay said, “No matter how smart you are, no matter how talented, you can’t do it alone.”
The research is clear, and, as I have written before, your success, your happiness, your longevity in this life are dependent on the relationships you have with others. You need a team of people who participate with you in your success and happiness, be they family, co-workers, friends, acquaintances or strangers you have yet to meet.
BIRDS OF A FEATHER
The essence of people power is to realize that “Everything in the world we want to do or get done, we must do with and through people,” according to Earl Nightingale, motivational speaker and radio host. Those with people power rely on two very critical skills, the first of which is the ability to connect and create relationships of trust with others.
For most of us, that’s easy because “similarity breeds connection.” The ancient Greek term for it is homophily, which is defined as the tendency for people to seek out or be attracted to those who are similar to them. Usually, these are our deepest and most important relationships. These are the ones that the nearly 80-year-old Harvard University Study of Adult Development referred to when describing the increased longevity and happiness of those with deep meaningful relationships.
What’s even more interesting-and something I’ve noticed in my relationship with my wife, some of my family and my closest mates-is that the longer people are together, the more alike they become. In the time of need, these are the relationships on which we can depend. When you have people around you who care about you and support you, you are empowered to overcome difficulties that would destroy many people. If you have someone there to help you process a trauma, you’ll likely recover more quickly. If you don’t have someone to help you through, you’ll internalize trauma and isolate yourself, and that trauma will turn into a lifetime of pain. Healthy relationships, then, can help you overcome life’s challenges.
There are, however, weaknesses in strong relationships. Our closest friends and family can hold us back. They know us too well. Our strong ties feel comfortable, safe and familiar. Other than support, they may have little to offer. They are often too similar-even too similarly stuck-to provide more than sympathy. They often don’t know any more about life, jobs or relationships than we do.
THE POWER IN WEAK CONNECTIONS
As I was discussing this topic with Kemp Harr, publisher of Floor Focus, he was reminded of The Spirit of Sigma Chi. He is a member of that fraternity. He said that The Spirit of Sigma Chi was reiterated time and time again to him as a college student. Read it and see if you can detect the meaning of The Spirit of Sigma Chi:
Friendship among members, sharing a common belief in an ideal and possessing different temperaments, talents, convictions, is superior to friendship among members having the same temperaments, talents and convictions, and that genuine friendship can be maintained without surrendering the principle of individuality or sacrificing one’s personal judgment.
The Spirit of Sigma Chi implies that there is power in relationships or friendships with people different from you and, in some ways, are superior to those of your closest friends. There is power in casual relationships. Casual relationships give us access to something new and different. They know things and people we don’t know. Information and opportunity spread farther and faster through casual ties than through close friends because casual relationships have fewer overlapping contacts. Casual relationships are like bridges you cannot see all the way across, so there is no telling where they might lead. Therefore, though more difficult, it is just as important for you to create relationships with people who are different from you and with whom you would normally not choose to be friends.
DON’T BE AFRAID TO ASK
According to Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, what separates the highly successful from the average is that the successful have rapport, a relationship of mutual trust and mutual affinity, with a larger network of key people.
If you are the type of person who tends to disappear in a large gathering or tends to hang out only with their most comfortable relationships, your personal team may be lacking. We need to spread our wings and venture out of our comfort zones to meet and make connections with people who are different from us or those with whom we would not normally hang out. You are as responsible for making friends and connections as you are for your happiness and joy.
That leads to the second critical skill that those with people power rely on: the willingness to risk rejection and failure. If you want to have lots of friends, if you want to close a sale, if you want a date, if you want to move up the ladder, you cannot be afraid to ask for what you want. For me, the word “ask” is the most powerful word in any language. You can get anything you want if you are audacious enough to ask for it. You may be rejected many times, but you don’t fail until you quit asking.
Consider children. They are relentless. They ask over and over to get what they want. If they asked another child to play with them and the child says no, they simply look for another friend.
That’s how each of us used to be. But then we grew up. Our egos became tender and sensitive. For many of us, fear of rejection or failure immobilized us. Asking for something became too assertive, too audacious. Our mothers told us not to talk to strangers, but if you’re to succeed at creating a large group of connections, you’d better start approaching and talking to strangers. People are not strangers if you’ve already met them. The trick is to meet them before you need their help.
Getting strangers to help is not hard. I believe that deep down people like to help. It not only makes them feel important but it also gives them purpose. I travel a lot. I have been on every continent and in many countries. In every place I have ever been, I have found helpful people without expecting anything in return but a smile and a thank you. If you want or need something, there are always people who will help. But you have to ask.
I teach an online class for seniors at Kennesaw State University to prepare them for their transition into the work world. The required book for the class is The Start-Up of You by Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha, the software developers of LinkedIn. I recommend it to everyone who is interested in furthering their career in today’s global economy and job market. For the class, I require my students to contact at least ten people who could help them learn more about a potential career or job opportunity. They are required to interview at least one of those ten to learn any practical knowledge or wisdom they may have that could help them in their quest to choose a career or find a job. It’s amazing what they learn and how many of their contacts are willing to help and are willing to continue the relationship over time. Of course, they won’t help if they are not asked.
It is not very hard to create meaningful friendships and connections. We first have to reach out, and then we have to sell ourselves by getting them to like us. That’s not hard either. Think about it. Who do you like? We like people like us and who like us; who empathize with us; who listen and are interested in us; who say complimentary things to us and build our self-esteem; who are loyal and honest; who do things for us and give us things; who care about us and who help us believe in ourselves. We like people who look for the good in us and make us feel important. That’s the essence of the practice of people power. Learn to do all of that and you will attract friends like a magnet attracts steel.
In the flooring industry, associations and buying and marketing groups are great places to meet potential contacts. Many of you are members. Some of you are members of local networking groups. It’s likely you have attended Domotex, TISE, Coverings and some of the other conventions. I have two questions. How well are you using them to network and create casual connections? And are you using your casual connections effectively for finding opportunities, information and know-how to improve your lives, businesses or careers?
In every issue of Floor Focus, you can find the names of people you don’t know and who can possibly become part of your team. In this issue, we are highlighting the top 100 retailers. Is there any business or person on that list that you should contact? As the Chinese proverb says, “A wise man knows everything. A shrewd one, everybody.”
Copyright 2019 Floor Focus